Pivotal Moments Part 6: Receiving Critique Graciously

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
—C.S. Lewis

A few days ago I shared how authenticity is found when we have self-awareness multiplied with courage. Today let’s flesh out what courage looks like.

Recognizing our pivotal moments can be hard because these moments often come with surprise. However, if we can recognize them—stepping in with courage makes all the difference.

After coaching for a few years, I ended up in the world of facilitating executive offsites. It was fun and I was good at it. Working with an entire team of leaders energizes me like nothing else. During this particular instance, I’d been hired to help the team examine their efficiency in executing their mission. We covered a lot of ground that day and I was happy with our progress. I asked the team, “how could you celebrate the work done today?”

At the time I’d been learning about the science of celebration and how teams can benefit from implementing a rhythm to affirm success. The discussion was rich, but did carry on a bit longer than planned. So we took a break.

As I exited the meeting room and entered the bathroom, one of the executives stood beside me while we used the restroom. At my most vulnerable time (literally with my pants down), he said, “you’re wasting our time—it’s too valuable to spend in discussions like that…”

The awkward moment was made even worse by the fact that there was a line of other executives behind us waiting to use the bathroom. I had to think quick. “You’re right,” I said. “We did spend a bit longer on that point than I’d planned. I apologize. That’s why it’s important that we keep moving.”

His response was simple—“great.” And we moved on.

I’ve reflected on this moment many times through the years—every time one lesson floats to the top. Making space to find vision means receiving something from outside yourself. You can’t receive if you have no capacity to listen. Listening happens, as C.S. Lewis said, not when we think less of ourselves, but when we think of ourselves less.

It’s so easy to think of ourselves, isn’t it? We get wrapped up in what people think of us, our status and our reputation. When we’re consumed with ourselves, we have virtually no ability to acknowledge when someone gives us their perspective, critique, or other thoughts. This means we don’t improve and, eventually, we end up alone. Arrogance says you can do all things in your own strength. Humility says, “I can’t possibly know everything I need to know without your perspective, therefore, I need to listen.”

That moment in the bathroom taught me something. We’ll get a lot farther if we’ll think about ourselves less. The skills we need to accomplish the vision we have will improve when we receive critique graciously—our vision will too. The way forward is thinking of yourself less. Acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake, course correct as necessary. Don’t know what to do? As for help.

When have you learned the art of receiving critique graciously? How has it helped you? On the other hand, what do you think prevents us from hearing what others have for us?

As always, I welcome your messages.